India, Pakistan: Signs of a Coming War
Several major signs of a coming Indian-Pakistani war surfaced Dec. 24.
Indian troops reportedly have deployed to the Barmer district of southwest Rajasthan state along the Indian-Pakistani border. Furthermore, the state government of Rajasthan has ordered residents of its border villages to be prepared for relocation. The decision reportedly came after a meeting among the state's director-general of police, home secretary and an official from the central government. STRATFOR confirmed the report with an Indian army officer.
According to India's ZeeNews, the Pakistani army replaced the Pakistan Rangers that regularly patrol the border with India. The Pakistani troop movements were later confirmed by U.K. Bansal, the additional director-general of India's Border Security Force (BSF) in Barmer, Rajasthan.
As STRATFOR reported Dec. 22, there is a high probability of India using military force against Pakistan after Dec. 26, when a deadline expires for Pakistan to deliver on Indian demands to crack down on Islamist militant proxies that threaten India. With low expectations that Pakistan has the will or capability to deliver on these demands, India has spent the past month preparing for military action against Pakistan. Pressure is now ratcheting up on both sides of the border, with Indian Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Air Command, telling reporters Dec. 24 that as many as 5,000 targets in Pakistan have thus far been identified, while saying that many of the militants hiding out in camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have already fled.
It should be noted that the area of Rajasthan where Indian troops are deploying and where villagers are preparing to evacuate is a long distance from Kashmir, where conflict between India and Pakistan typically takes place. Barmer district is adjacent to Jaisalmer district, where India's Southwestern Air Command is located. Any attacks based out of the Barmer district would involve mechanized and armored forces that could threaten the core Karachi-Hyderabad-Islamabad corridor — Pakistan's only transit corridor that links the Pakistani heartland of Punjab with the coast. Given that cash-strapped Pakistan is a net food and energy importer and is already flirting with bankruptcy, India has a military opportunity at hand to cut off Pakistan's economic lifeline. Furthermore, a potential cutoff would likely complicate the flow of fuel and supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Any ground troop movement in southwestern Rajasthan is likely to be accompanied by air strikes against militant targets outside of Kashmir and possibly against intelligence facilities in Pakistan's urban areas.
The timing of Indian military action is still unclear, as it will take some time for India to mobilize its forces and evacuate locals along the border area. But given these recent troop movements, it could be a matter of days before the world witnesses another Indian-Pakistani war.